ROSTOV-ON-DON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia may be heading out of the World Cup after losing 1-0 to Uruguay, but coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said his side had recovered their dignity after a much improved performance compared with their opener - an embarrassing 5-0 defeat to Russia.
“The difference between this display and the first game was massive, the change was obvious, it gives us tranquility for the future for the months ahead,” Pizzi told a news conference on Wednesday.
Luis Suarez tapped in the only goal of the game in the first half when Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais flapped at a corner kick. But it was Saudi Arabia who played more adventurous football than Uruguay, who qualified for the last 16.
“We may not have done enough to get the result we wanted but we had lots of the ball and we circulated it well. We imposed ourselves on the game,” said the Argentine coach, who took charge of the Arab nation after they had qualified for their first World Cup since 2006.
“The goal we conceded was unfortunate, but we didn’t have the tools they had. We couldn’t equalise, but we controlled the play. We didn’t suffer.”
Saudi Arabia were the second-lowest ranked team heading into the tournament, but their ignominious defeat to the hosts in the curtain raiser provoked serious criticism back home, while Pizzi said the performance had left him feeling “ashamed”.
Winning coach Oscar Tabarez said he felt Saudi Arabia had played better than his Uruguay side, and Pizzi believed his team’s gutsy display would have lifted the spirits of their supporters at home.
“We were all united fighting for the same objective, and I think the people of Saudi Arabia will be happy with the spirit we showed,” he said.
His side play Egypt in their final Group A game next Monday, when only pride will be at stake as the north African side are also heading home after losing twice.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t play like this in the first game, and we regret that we have no possibility in the last game, but we’ll still represent our country, and we’ll make Saudi Arabia proud even though we are out of the tournament,” Pizzi said.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Hugh Lawson